Still Mo’ Trades
Now, this is more like it. Hours after the Eric Byrnes-for-Larry Bigbie trade was announced, Colorado flips Bigbie to Boston for a younger, cheaper lefty-swinging outfielder who hits for average and can play some center, and a potential long-term solution at catcher (link courtesy of Purple Row). Bigbie for Kelly Shoppach and Adam Stern (or, in the long view, Jay Witasick and Joe Kennedy for Shoppach, Stern, and Omar Quintanilla) is a deal that improves the Colorado organization while costing them little.
Kelly Shoppach is the prize here, so let’s do him first. Kelly is 25 (born 4/29/1980) and is regarded as a fine defensive backstop. More pleasing to mine eyes are his high walk numbers and 22 homers for the PawSox last season. He’s killing ’em in repeating AAA this year: 21 jacks, .260/.360/.527. And the Prospectus says Pawtucket is a pitchers’ park! BP projected him to have a higher (major league) VORP than either Closser or Ardoin this year so the Rockies ought to plug him right in. Any trade that brings an end to the ugliness of the Danny Ardoin era is sunshine and posies to me. The Baseball America book has him as the #8 guy in the Red Sox system and notes that he was voted best defensive catcher by International League managers last year. He strikes out a lot, but if he can hit homers and draw walks, who cares? Shoppach was a second-round pick by the Red Sox out of Baylor in 2001. He’s 5’11", 210 in case you were planning on buying him a suit. He swings righty.
Adam Stern is more of a sleeper, but his line in AAA is sweet: .303/.365/.474 in 76 ABs. Stern was only in Pawtucket because he was recovering from a broken right thumb he suffered in spring training; he’s a Rule 5 guy originally from the Braves’ organization. He’s 5’11", 180 and was born 2/12/1980 (the same month as me, incidentally). Unlike most Atlanta prospects, he went to college. The Braves took him in the third round out of Nebraska in ’01. It’s easy to see what attracted Theo Epstein to Stern: a .378 OBP in AA Greenville last year. Stern has no home run power whatsoever (14 on his career) but he’ll hit some doubles and he can steal a base. John Sickels says Stern "has a solid lefty swing and should hit for average at all levels." BA has him at #23 in the Boston system. If the slight uptick in walk rate Stern has showed this season isn’t a fluke, he’s going to be a real useful player.
A starting lineup next Opening Day of Hawpe, Stern, and Holliday in the outfield, Atkins, Barmes, Quintanilla, and Todd Helton on the infield, and a battery of Jeff Francis and Shoppach isn’t awful for the price the Rockies will be paying. Aside from the vexing question of who’s going to pitch the second, third, fourth, and fifth games.
Update: As of very early Saturday morning the Boston Herald was reporting that Shoppach was among the prospects to be included in a package sent to Tampa Bay as part of a three-way Manny Ramirez deal also involving the Mets. ESPN is calling that same deal as good as dead. The Boston Globe seems more sanguine about a Manny deal going through but is less certain that Shoppach will be included. It’s possible that Man-Ram will get his way (although how New York is going to offer him greater privacy is beyond me) and the lesser Bigbie deal will occur as here described. The Denver Post seems a beat or two behind but does note that Anderson Machado is gone (Anderson, we hardly knew ye) and Desi Relaford will follow him by the trade deadline one way or another. The future is now!